NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – John Hunter threw thousands of punches during his career as a boxer for the U.S. Navy Boxing team, landing many of them in championship bouts against fellow service members in the Army, Air Force and Marines.
He won multiple All-Navy boxing championships and took home gold in the 1973 World Military games, but Hunter’s legacy as a fighter is only half the story.
Typically a coaching career begins after a fighter hangs up his gloves for good, but Hunter’s path to coaching was far from ordinary; he was more of a “southpaw.”
“We didn’t have that many people, we had about six guys,” said John Hunter. “I had the most experience so I had to try and train myself and train them.”
Hunter spent nearly two decades simultaneously fighting and coaching for U.S. Navy Boxing before hanging up his gloves for good. But even after the bell rang for his last official fight, it was hard for Hunter to stay out of the ring.
“If someone needed a sparring partner, coach would get in the ring with them,” said Mike Duzant, a member of the ’84 and ’85 Navy Boxing teams.
Mike Duzant won the 1985 All-Military Championship with Hunter in his corner, and credits his cool demeanor to his success. “When you get back to your corner, for him to have the ability to calm you down, to bring you back to square one, that was his talent,” said Duzant.
“A good boxer needs to be totally committed to the sport, in order to be the best and be the champion you have to take everything else and put it aside,” said Hunter.
Even as a coach, Hunter’s commitment was never in question. He spent a lot of time away from his family to coach, but that didn’t stop him from raising a family of fighters.
“My father, he’s the one that got me started in it. He never asked me and my brother to box, but we just picked it up at about 12 or 13 years old,” said Keith Hunter.
Like his Dad, Keith has made a career of coaching and continues to teach fighters today at his Richmond gym. He hopes to inspire future fighters the same way his father did for the Navy for nearly 40 years.
For Mike Duzant, Hunter’s unique coaching style not only helped him deliver knockout blows but also avoid the haymakers coming his way.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. With Coach Hunter we stuck with the plan even though we got punched in the mouth,” said Duzant.